Just outside the upscale community of Scottsdale Arizona, a small group of athletes gather to hone their skills and to let out their battle cries. Their team known as The Desert Warriors of the Southwest are part of a small, but growing, group of dedicated individuals that keep the tradition of mounted archery alive. Their training facility nestled in among rural homes and Saguaro cactus is one of just a few dedicated training camps in the North America.
The tradition of mounted archery started in Mongolia with Genghis Khan and later spread across Europe and the Americas. In the United States the heritage of mounted Native American warriors and hunters is an image romanticized in the Westerns. The level of horsemanship that is required to not just ride at speed, but to load, draw, and fire an arrow on target is hard to describe until you actually see it firsthand.
The type of events are based on the different mounted archery disciplines from around the world. From Korean there is the Mogu ball, from Europe the Hungarian three-sided target, while from the Middle East comes the Qabag target. Each exercise tests both the riding and archery skill of the competitor, with the most exciting event being the Qabag. In the Qabag the rider must draw their arrow, and while at speed lean forward while twisting around allowing them to fire at the target mounted about 20 feet above them.
We were fortunate enough to spend the day with Diana Troyk the founder of The Desert Warriors and the chief instructor at the mounted archery facility. Diana’s skills have been tapped for the filming of the History Channel’s “The Secrets of Genghis Han” as well as other projects where mounted archery is required. In 2010 she took the Bronze in Korea, and Third in the North American Championship. She has also competed in Poland, Japan, and Mongolia.
Diana and her students hope to see the sport grow here in the USA through the Mounted Archery Association of the America. This group is the sectioning body in the USA, Canada, South and Central America. The organization and its dozen or so recognized clubs host clinics, demonstrations, and competitions across the United States and Canada. For more information on the sport and how you can get involved please visit MountedArchery.org